My life hasn’t always been Star Wars, so after Return of the Jedi came and went it was time to get back to some other fun TV and Films.
I loved cinema and still do. I didn’t just wait for the next Star Wars film to come out to spend money at the flicks. I’ve loved films all my life. By the 1980s I would take myself to films that my parents probably weren’t interested in and because Star Wars made such an influence on cinema and TV at the time, it meant that there was a lot of SciFi around.
Before all the fun of Star Wars and the lure of the cinema, back on TV in the early 70s I remember there were a few particular shows which had a Sci-fi core which caught my eye, The Six Million Dollar Man, Doctor Who and Star Trek. There was another that didn’t initially seem to have a Sci-fi premise, but it was something I watched and really enjoyed. This show was Tarzan : Lord of the Jungle. No space ships, robots or aliens in this one, at least initially.
Tarzan was first published in 1912 and predates Burrough’s other Sci-fi hero, John Carter of Mars in the book, A Princess of Mars from 1917.
I didn’t realise at the time, that Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan switched from adventure stories to science fiction with novels such as Tarzan and the Ant-Men (1924) when Tarzan is miniaturized to ant size or Tarzan at the Earths Core (1929) featured the inner and outer worlds of the Earth and Dinosaurs.
Tarzan : Lord of the Jungle was an animated show by the same production company that also produced an animated Star Trek in 1973. We will come back to Trek later.
Filmation produced many animated cartoons such as Superman, Flash Gordon, Zorro, The Lone Ranger, The Groovie Ghoulies, Archie and lots more, but I only remember properly watching that one particular show Tarzan. As seen below Filmation later went on to producing the highly successful He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in 1982.
Their cartoons had a very unique look and style. Simplistic shots with animated mouths, eye blinks and repeated sequences. I loved that show. It was probably on Saturday mornings alongside the Banana Splits, Rupert Bear (which I didn’t like) and Jackanory.
One particular memory of an episode featured Tarzan getting captured by some aliens which looked like a slight modification in colour and “beardiness” of a Talosian from Star Trek.
Wow, Tarzan and Sci-fi together. I had to keep watching in case they came back. Then they introduced robots!!! This was cool stuff for an eight to eleven year old.
This show ran from 1976 to 1979 with 36 episodes in total, so it filled the gap before Empire Strikes Back was released.
Bizarrely, I also remember watching a live action Tarzan in the same decade starring the great Ron Ely. This show had already been cancelled back in the late 60s by the time I was watching it in the 70s.
Ron was also great in the fun Doc Savage : Man of Bronze movie released in 1975. He was the Tony Stark of the day and actually predates the creation of Batman.
Back to Tarzan, both the live action and the cartoon used the classic Tarzan call by the original Johnny Weismuller, which were also occasionally on TV.
The only other show of the same time which featured lots of reused film footage of lions and tigers fighting was Daktari. The memories of that show seem purely to do with the opening titles. Maybe I turned over when I heard the opening theme.
Should you actually ride a lion? Clarence the crossed eyed lion was quite the TV celebrity at the time. Poor lion died at the age of 7 when lions can actually live to the grand old age of 30.
Nice to know Gentle Ben replaced him at the Heart of Illinois fair.
Again Daktari was another TV programme from America shown on the BBC that was cancelled before I even started to watch any on it.
I may even have seen the original film “Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion” which predated Daktari at the cinema alongside my Disney jaunts with my mum. But I don’t recall.
Anyway back to Filmation. Following Tarzan I do remember watching another Filmation cartoon series. Space Sentinals.
Great fun. With a show that only lasted 13 episodes in 1977, it’s amazing that I actually remember it. More superhero adventures, with a dash of Scifi and a close cousin with Tarzan. Three humans given fantastic powers and returned to Earth to look after the planet. Reminded me of Power Rangers before that was a thing.
Moving away from Filmation there were a bunch of other cartoons I was very fond of at the time.
Battle of the Planets was in the very same vein as The Space Sentinels. It ran from 1978 to 1980, although it was an actual licenced reedit of an original 1972 Japanese show entitled Gatchaman. To help everything fit, 7-Zark-7 was added to lengthen the episodes, cover up inappropriate content unsuitable for US audiences and used as a narrator to allow the new stories to fit whilst using the Gatchaman footage. It was also redubbed with such actors as Casey Kasem who was also the voice of Shaggy in Scooby Doo.
Another Japanese dubbed import was the fun Marine Boy from 1966. At the time I wish I had some of his “oxy-gum” as I hated swimming underwater in the 70s due to ear problems.
I watched Hanna Barbera cartoons such as Boss Cat, Scooby Doo, Huckleberry Finn, Tom and Jerry and The Flintstones but by absolute favourite probably due to the violence, were the Looney Tunes cartoons produced by Warner Brothers.
Road Runner and Wile E Coyote, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Porky Pig and my all time favourite Marvin The Martian.
We will go into more details of the Warner Brothers Studio Store and the Disney Stores in another blog.
Let’s move on to one of my all time favourite 70s live action TV shows.
Steve Austin, a man barely alive, ran (pun intended) from 1973 to 1978. Steve a NASA astronaut for was severely injured in a test flight crash which we saw during the title sequence of every episode with the words “We can rebuild him. We have the technology to create the worlds first Bionic man.”
The crash featured in the sequence was an actual crash of an M2-F2 piloted by Bruce Peterson. The M2-F2 was a wingless precursor to the space shuttle which was used to develop a craft that would return to Earth from space. Read more about it here.
Peterson survice the crash but suffered a fractured skull, broken teeth, and broken bones in one of his hands, plus had his a portion of his forehead scraped off. Ouch. Later he lost sight in his right eye and developed an allergy to penicillin whilst undergoing skin graft surgery to rebuild his right eyebrow and eyelid. He died in 2006, aged 72.
This accident and his story became the inspiration for the original Cyborg novel written by Martin Caidin, in 1972. This novel featured the hero Steve Austin, and became the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man TV pilot and subsequent TV series.
Caidin himself was credited on all episodes of the Steve Austin and Jamie Sommers shows.
In the TV show, Steve Austin lost an arm, two legs and an eye in the accident and luckily his doctor, Rudy Wells came up with the plan to make him “Better. Stronger. Faster.” It worked but he could always be knocked out by gas, cold, ultrasonic attack and I always wondered how although his arm was strong that it didn’t get ripped out of his organic shoulder when carrying heavy loads.
The TV series was produced by Harve Bennett who later went on to produce the Star Trek films from Wrath of Khan, following the mixed reviews but high box office success of Star Trek : The Motion Picture in 1979 following closely on the heels of Star Wars.
It also included some follow up films from 1987 to 1994. The last of which featured the wedding of Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers, the Bionic Women added to the bionic family in 1975.
I loved the 70s versions of this show. The N-N-N-N bionics, the unforgetable villains such as Bigfoot and John Saxton playing Sloan. In toy form, Sloan would always be Maskatron! The sight of the faceless robot in those days really freaked me out.
Speaking of Toys….. www.starzonetoys.com
One of my favourite action figures based on a TV series was my Six Million Dollar man figure. He came in his snazzy red exercise two piece track suit and featured a large plastic engine which he could lift. Very similar to the Boba Fett figure that would come later, this figure featured his wide angle bionic eye which you could look through to spy the bad guys.
His arm was connected to a button on his back and if you pressed it, his arm would raise gradually to lift the “enormous” weight of the plastic engine.
His legs and right arm were covered in rubber which you could roll back to reveal the removable bionics. They also produced several other figures in the line, but apart from Maskatron, I was only interested in Steve.
You could also get a bunch of other accessories for Steve including a medical bed which would transform into a rocket and a bionic rocket sled. I didn’t have either of these but I knew a friend that had the medical bay so we could connect up Steve’s bionics and fix up his malfunctions.
I just knew that once I wore my denim jacket and denim jeans, I WAS STEVE AUSTIN!!
I’d spend days running slowly across fields with my “Bionics” and jumping over small grass verges.
I also loved the iconic music by jazz musician Oliver Nelson who also produced the music for other popular shows in the 70s, Ironside and Columbo and worked with The Temptations, Diana Ross and James Brown.
Forget Star Trek, I was more obsessed with Steve Austin.
Other shows I remember from the summer holidays in the 70s included the black and white, Robinson Crusoe and at least the opening titles to dubbed The Flashing Blade, and Follyfoot. All with iconic opening themes. Others to add to my soundtrack collections.
Next time we’ll get into the Star Trek, Doctor Who and a side dish of Gerry Anderson.